November 12, 2009

Who told you writing was fun?

How is Nanowrimo going? It sucks; it's been a few days since I've written, even longer since I've written for a significant length of time, and I'm in the middle of being depressed about whether I really want to write as a career at all.

These things are all very interesting to me. If you, as another person, could check in on my mind you'd find little else to occupy your time and attention. But there are other things I'd rather talk about that do, however remotely, have to do with my writing.

I'd like you to keep in mind it's freaking cold where I am; not as cold as Wisconsin, where the proud, savage Yeti people hold power, but cold in my house, where the furnace is always turned low and works poorly anyway. It's kind of hard to focus, but I'm not using this as an excuse for not writing. I'm using this as an opportunity to set up a story.

My dad's in a wheelchair because of diabetes. One of his pasttimes is telling children a dog bit off the leg he lost, and I've mined that bit for comedy myself. Seeing a kid's face change from wariness (good survival instincts, if gullible, but they're kids, c'mon) to suspicion, to laughter is pretty fun.

He watches tv a lot, either out of laziness or because he doesn't know what else to do, or maybe it still holds fascination for him - he was born when the thing was coming into its own, or about to, and further technology - the internet, fuck just computers, all the things that hold me - got nothing on him. He watches it with a sweater/jacket on, pulled up over his face. He has a space heater but won't turn it on; he says, most of the time, it takes to long to heat up. Even if he's been in that spot for hours.

He waits for me to get it.

I came out with a fresh case of self-pity after managing a paltry 400+ words for the day. I plopped down in a chair, watched for a second and turned to him.

"I got maybe 400 words today. I'm not doing so good at this writing thing." Close enough.

My dad doesn't respond. When I try to continue, he rolls forward wordlessly and turns up the volume. I say, "If you don't want to listen you could just ask me to be quiet." I sounded, and felt, pretty bitchy.

He looks at me, raises a finger to his lips and says "Shhh."

I left soon after.

It's hard to tell if he's a dick or not, not least of all because I'm a lot like him, and I can't always tell when I mean to be a dick or just funny. A friend named Scott knows what I mean; neither of us can figure out the other, except that it's all too easy to get pissed quick.

That's how the week has been though; feeling alone and lost, to the point where Linkin Park is starting to make sense again (a fate I've thankfully avoided since high school. Lord, don't let me walk that road again).

Let's talk about stories in videogames. Since Nano's going so badly, let's focus on criticism (or at least examination) instead.

I recently started playing WOW again (World of Warcraft). AFTER things went downhill, not before. Otherwise I'd know what to do to bring myself out of this literary funk.

WoW's a fun game, but it wears thin fast on me; for an MMO, I could give no shit whatsoever about playing with others. That many (too many!) are douchebags keeps me on the solo track.

I also don't give a damn about the story for most races; the lore behind the whole deal, and the story in the Warcraft games is good (especially Warcraft III), and the events leading up to the player creation are interesting, but after?

I'm a human paladin, righteous warrior of the Alliance. Huntin' evil and shite. First quest is to hunt some Kobolds, which should be familiar to DnD players.

These Kobolds, however, are framed yellow, meaning they won't attack until attacked. Righteous crusade just became douchebag invader and murderer.

It's the same all over, with no real reason to do what you're doing aside from XP. That's the game though, and I don't resent it, except for the unnatural pull it can have on me. But, there is one race that is awesome. One story, taking the PC from 1-20th level that is epic, sweeping, intelligent, and a good story.

The Draeni are a race of goat-people. Their goddam ship goddam crashed on goddam Azeroth, and goddammit, it's time to put up or shut up. You are a survivor pulled out of wreckage at the site of an emergency refugee camp for the wounded and starters.

Right off the bat, you have a purpose beyond yourself. You're helping your people, and every action has an effect. The story does not stop there, but flows naturally to find more refugees, to the point where you discover the leadership has survived and set up in the largest ship, sending aid and trying to carve out a place in the world for the Draeni.

For the rest of your time you take quests, some epic and some grinders, to level and bring the Draeni to a stable position. And the end caps it all. In a Star Wars fashion you turn in the last quest to the leader of the second-largest city, and turn around, ready to head out into the big world and grind your nose into dust for that mythical level 55 (the only thing I care about, to play a death knight).

But what's this? There's a fucking line of people here! YOUR people, every single NPC you've met and taken a quest from, cheering clapping and causin' a ruckus in a line down to Velen, supreme leader. This is the guy who leads, the big man, the Admiral to your pathetic Seaman (heheh). And he congratulates, and thanks you.

Good goin' he says, in more words. It's AWESOME.

Remember Star Wars IV? New Hope, when the series was good? Remember that last big battle where the Rebellion wrested victory thanks to a dead Alec Guinness and a farmboy with an ego problem (and a sister fetish, ew)? Remember Solo comin' out of left field, saving the hero?

You've just come back from a quest like that. Saved the goddam Draeni, that's what you did. And now you get the celebration. Not just a purple XP award floating above your head and a disgusting pair of new boots, but a fucking hootinanny in your honor.

You walk that aisle like Han goddam Solo and except the thanks with a cheerful wink to the Princess.

This is a real story in a videogame. There are other, better examples in other game, but this is it for WoW, at least as far as I've seen. Nothing else grips me the way these missions did. Nothing else made me glad to at least want to be a part of the profession that creates such awesome things.

Goodnight folks. Dream of Rebel Farmboys blowing moon lasers out of the sky.

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